Jessica Williams


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Gratitude Review

by David R. Adler

An in-studio solo piano recital, Gratitude features Jessica Williams on a number of originals and jazz classics. Beginning with the minor-key, vamp-based original "The Sheikh," Williams acts as her own rhythm section, strumming the piano wires manually to set up the call-and-answer structure of the piece.

Compositionally, aside from Williams, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk are the two prevailing forces on the record. Williams' version of Coltrane's "Mr. Syms" may be very straightforward, but tunes as good as these don't require any window dressing. "Like Sonny," the second Coltrane selection, is for the most part removed from its usual bossa nova context; Williams instead employs a rubato feel to explore the shifting harmonies. Her improvisation reaches its peak, however, on Monk's "Justice," also known as "Evidence." Monk based the tune on the standard "Just You, Just Me," and so that's where Williams begins, eventually segueing into Monk's theme and making the connection explicit. It's a piano tour de force, next to which her reading of "'Round Midnight" seems less than outstanding.

Williams' chops and enthusiasm again spill over on a playful, stride-style rendition of "Nice Work If You Can Get It." Her more contemplative side is revealed on "I Cover the Waterfront" and her originals "Serenata" and "Last Trane," which pay tribute to the late Mary Lou Williams (no relation) and Coltrane, respectively.

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